Defining speech and language fluency profiles in children with and without family history of stuttering, before and after the onset of stuttering: Preliminary findings


Current research indicates that the onset, recovery and persistence of stuttering stem from a number of complex factors and their interaction with speech motor control processes. The use of non-speech and quasi-speech tasks have helped to increase the understanding of speech production processes involved with stuttering, however results from such studies are somewhat inconsistent and do not reflect natural speaking contexts. It is often difficult to ascertain the direction of causality of findings. This experiment investigated familial history as a risk factor for the onset of stuttering and whether changes in speech and language fluency profiles associated with stuttering are a cause or consequence of stuttering. Eighteen young children participated in this experiment to investigate the onset and developmental aspects of early stuttering across four data sessions collected three months apart. The first data session was prior to the onset of any stuttering. This allowed for investigation of the relevant risk factors associated with the onset of stuttering, and speech production development associated with and without stuttering. A number of detailed speech production measures were gathered to comprise the speech and fluency profiles. To explore the way in which speech motor control and linguistic planning processes interact, the set of collected speech measures targeted both processes. Together, the measures reflect the multidimensional aspect of fluency and dynamic processes of speech production. A novel approach for the investigation of pauses in speech was adopted (Kirsner, Dunn, & Hird, 2003) in conjunction with common measures of speech and language production (Systematic Analysis of Language Transcripts: SALT, Miller, 2008). Nine children with a positive family history of stuttering and nine age and gender matched children without positive family history of stuttering participated. Children were aged between 21 to 48 months at the first data session and aged between 30 and 57 months when the study ended. Speech and language fluency profiles were determined through natural speaking contexts; conversation and play sessions with a parent and the examiner. During the study five children were diagnosed with stuttering but familial history was not found to be a significant predictor for the onset of stuttering. This was likely due to the small sample size available. Syllables Spoken per Second, a measure of articulation rate, was found to be a significant predictor for stuttering onset. However, this result was inconclusive as it could also be explained by group differences in age. Prior to any stuttering onset, the speech and language fluency profiles of children who started stuttering was comparable to that of children who continued to typically develop. However, soon after stuttering onset, the results showed an early impact of stuttering on speech production. The preliminary findings demonstrate that changes in speech production measures occurred as a consequence of stuttering.


stuttering onset, development, risk factors, speech production

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